3 Ways To Prioritize Peer-To-Peer Learning In The Remote Workplace

September 22, 2022

The post-pandemic workplace—whether fully remote or hybrid—continues to present challenges for companies that want to keep employees engaged while maintaining a strong organizational culture.

Sales teams in particular can suffer when they’re not plugged into their org. Enabling time-strapped sales executives (an already difficult role pre-pandemic) to meet customer needs while also receiving a good level of interaction is difficult. They, like many teams in your business, want to feel like they’re part of a team and providing value to the organization.

But, as businesses have evolved to meet the demands of remote and hybrid work, more experiential learning tools have cropped up to help upskill employees, no matter where they’re working from.

At SAP, a highly distributed organization (with over 105,000 employees either working from home or at SAP offices around the world), our sales learning team has been pioneering virtual peer-to-peer (P2P) educational programs using video platforms like Zoom since well before the pandemic.

We’re hopeful the approaches we’ve iterated and improved upon can be used and replicated by other organizations. These approaches can be applied across multiple functions with effort and consideration to what we consider the following best practices:

Virtual Peer-to-Peer Learning for Sales Executives

Having mentor/mentee relationships in an org gives staffers opportunities to engage with each other and is easily adaptable for a virtual environment. Transferring it to the virtual environment can be done by using many of the same tools we use on the daily.

1. Group mentoring via Zoom (or similar collaborative platform)

Match sales executives who’ve demonstrated high proficiency in selling skills and behaviors with groups of their peers to focus on a specific skill topic, such as:

  • Sales phases
  • Performance management
  • Executive conversations
  • Account planning

2. Reinforce learning with follow-up

During the first one-hour session, each participating sales executive, or “mentee,” shares an individual challenge they’re facing related to the topic at hand and how it impacts an existing deal. The sales executive mentor provides actionable guidance or advice with the group, using demonstrations drawn from real world experience to help each participant close their gaps and overcome challenges.

In this group talk scenario, they’re able to not only learn from each other about problems they’re facing, but from others who may have seen or experienced their issue.

Two weeks later, the group reconvenes with their mentor to report back on practices they’ve implemented from the previous session. From here, the mentor provides additional any feedback as needed.

3. Leave with an action plan

Be sure that participants leave with actionable feedback and a plan to continue using it moving forward, including best practices, reflection, tools and resources. Also, encourage participants to keep the conversation going with their peers to keep the avenues of communication open and also to foster a sense of community.

Supercharge your virtual peer-to-peer programs

While virtual mentoring may be a familiar concept, you can use strategies to help remove any guesswork when it comes to identifying mentors, uncovering sales executive skill gaps and pinpointing the skills/topics that “matter most” to overall performance.

We rely on data collected via our Skills Assessment program—a yearly sales executive self and manager assessment used to identify and address any individual sales-related skill gaps (see Data-Driven Sales Enablement (in 4 Easy Steps)).

As part of the assessment, managers—using a scale from 0 for “new” to 4 for “expert”—rate their sales executive team members’ proficiency across a range of key skills. These ratings identify:

  1. Future mentees, such as sales executives who have gaps and
  2. Potential mentors: executives who demonstrate expertise in key skills.

Topics for mentorship sessions are determined by our learning audience (on demand) but also through in-depth analysis, revealing the skills that correlate to any additional quota attainment. Mentoring sessions focused on these “top skills” are organized and assigned—via personalized plans—to sales executives with corresponding gaps.

Virtual Peer-to-Peer Learning for Managers

Sales executives can gain a lot of actionable feedback and benefits from the mentor/mentee relationship, but other employees might need a different setup. Some managers can be more comfortable in a traditional peer-to-peer setting with a higher degree of mutual assistance and where giving advice is a two-way street.

Here’s how it can be done virtually for managers:

1. Keep groups small and confidential

Groups should be kept small (typically four to five managers) and confidential to ensure openness among participants. We use Zoom along with programs such as Mural and Menti. These programs are used by managers to discuss topics (driven both by demand and through analysis) that impact their ability to coach and lead their teams to success. You’ll find them sharing their thoughts on topics such as:

  • Psychological safety
  • Empathy
  • Growth mindset
  • Building trust
  • Creating safe spaces
  • Active listening
  • and more.

2. Use a facilitator

We’ve found that a room facilitator keeps the conversation moving and on-topic. A room facilitator also helps to ensure that all voices are heard. For SAP, our facilitators are all internal employees with previous experience and/or training in facilitation.

3. Encourage lasting peer-to-peer learning

Managers are also encouraged to leave the session with an action plan and keep in touch with their peers for continued growth as leaders.

External-facing peer-to-peer learning

Depending on your industry and existing programs, there are likely opportunities for your employees to engage in virtual, external-facing peer-to-peer learning.

Since 2017, we have run the SAP.IO program, which targets external startups and ventures to help scale their businesses. At the same time, we also provide SAP customers access to the latest innovations and technologies.

To help support the program, our sales learning team connects experienced SAP sales executives with startup teams to serve as mentors. Mentors can provide guidance across a variety of topics, including enterprise sales basics, negotiation and closing, handling objections, understanding the sales cycle, and more.

The program has been very popular among SAP sales executive participants—both as an opportunity to share their knowledge, but also as a means of gaining external industry exposure and recognition.

Key takeaways:

  1. Using new or existing skill analyses programs and data can improve the quality of your mentors and maximize the impact and time spent learning for your target audience.
  2. Groups for manager and sales executive participants should emphasize open discussion, free from the presence of a manager. Make it a priority to implement confidentiality to provide additional comfort—especially for managers who might discuss more sensitive and/or strategic topics related to their role.
  3. Existing collaborative platforms (e.g., Zoom, Mural, and Menti) are easy to use. In fact, they can be more than sufficient for nearly all your virtual peer learning needs.

Global Vice President<br> SAP SE

As Head of Sales Learning at SAP, Mark Crofton leads a global team of enablement professionals responsible for implementing a learning strategy that drives the success of SAP’s sales executives. Mark holds a BA from Tufts and an MBA from Columbia Business School.